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City will spend $4M on Civic Centre entrance plaza

‘I'm not happy that we're spending all this money, but ... the answer is obvious that we have to do this now or it's going to get more expensive’ – Mayor Matthew Shoemaker

Ontario Concrete Finishing (Soo) Ltd. has won a $4 million contract to upgrade the front entrance plaza of the Ronald A. Irwin Civic Centre.

The project will include replacing the downtown landmark's dangerously compromised concrete stairs, exterior waterproofing of an underground garage, removing an accessibility ramp and adding an external passenger elevator.

"When non-recoverable HST is added, the cost to complete this project is projected to be $3,982,089 which is well over the total available budget of $2,183,423," says Carl Rumiel, the city's director of engineering.

To find the needed cash, city councillors agreed to cancel two other municipal projects: a million-dollar culvert replacement at Second Line and Leigh's Bay Road and a $750,000 seawall rehabilitation planned at the back off the civic centre adjacent to the St. Marys River.

Future budget requests will be made to fund the two cancelled projects, Rumiel said in a report to city council last week.

A 2020 conditions assessment of the civic centre made a number of recommendations, including reconfiguring the lobby for pandemic-related issues including building security and physical distancing, and the need for sprinklers throughout the building.

"The interior work was tendered for the lobby and sprinkler system but received little interest, so the sprinkler system was tendered separately," Rumiel said.

"That tender closed on March 9, 2022. There was one bid [that] was 150 per cent over budget. Staff did not recommend an award."

"The interior work to the lobby has been undertaken by public works and is nearing completion. There is budget set aside for the sprinkler system, which will be procured later this year," Rumiel said.

Three prequalified contractors were invited to bid on this year's work.

Two local firms submitted bids: Ontario Concrete Finishing (Soo) Ltd. and S. and T. Electrical Contractors Ltd.

Ontario Concrete's winning bid was more than a million dollars lower than S. and T.'s.

Ontario Concrete has identified six subcontractors that will work on the Civic Centre project:

  • Avery Construction Ltd.
  • Maverick and Son Exteriors and Consulting Services Inc.
  • Advance Interior Contracting
  • KLP Elevators and Lifts Ltd. (Thunder Bay)
  • S. and T. Electrical Contractors Ltd.
  • Glass Employees Ltd.

Larry Girardi, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for public works and engineering services, pointed out that the Civic Center plaza project will need a lot of concrete.

"This year, the price of concrete went up 57 per cent. Last year 17, the year before 29."

"These prices have went up significantly," Girardi said.

Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo asked whether it might be possible to build a new wheelchair ramp instead of an elevator.

Malcolm White, the city's chief administrative officer, told her that was indeed possible, but any new ramp would need to be a lot longer to meet Ontario Building Code requirements.

"There wasn't a huge significant premium to putting an elevator in place instead of a ramp. That seemed to be the best solution," White said.

"The projects don't get cheaper over time," said Mayor Matthew Shoemaker.

The entrance plaza probably should have been fixed a long time ago, the mayor added.

"As you would have probably all seen today coming into the building, the stairs are in a despicable state of repair."

"I think the solution is a lot cheaper than the liability we face from the current condition of the stairs because they are a serious health and safety risk."

"This solution also... fixes a leaky garage that we've had continual problems with, and does not require people who use mobility devices to go up any grade."

"As they exit on the upper level, it'll be all flat into the lobby."

"I'm not happy that we're spending all this money, but... the answer is obvious that we have to do this now or it's going to get more expensive as the years go ahead," Shoemaker said.

Ward 1 Coun. Sandra Hollingsworth expressed concern about cancellation of the seawall project behind the Civic Centre.

"Most of our constituents enjoy going down to the waterfront," Hollingsworth said.

The work on the Civic Center entrance plaza is to begin on May 1 and be complete by the middle of September.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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